Interpretations:Canajoharie

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Louisiana[edit | edit source]

Does this song remind anyone else of Louisiana (and to a lesser extent, Montana)? The elongated one word chorus, and someone trying to kill the narrator? -- Jason DeLima - ! - 16:16, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

This could definitely pass for a state song... it has a similar sound and energy to it. Just replace 'Canajoharie' with any five-syllable state name. Perspixx 15:37, 22 August 2011 (EDT)
I think That This Might Be The Weird Flashes Of Memory You Had Before That Gives You The Feels/Memories,But I Will Just Seem Weird Or Boring To Everyone Else,And The When The Said "That Is Where We Started,I Mean That And The Start Of TMBG. -Josh

I may have it.[edit | edit source]

I don't know why, but I got the idea today that the song was about childhood memories of summer camp told in an askew and abstract manner. (fake fin = prank, rocket ship = model rocket, etc.) --Propman 14:25, 19 October 2010 (UTC)


In response to above: I think sort of. I think the narrator is revisiting somewhere significant he's been. The place changed his life, moved him in some way, but now it's changed completely. He finds remnants of what was there (the "fossil tooth"). The narrator believes that if you have an exact image of the special place, you didn't really experience it ("If you can draw it in the air/Or write it down, then you weren't there"); what truth there is, or false-truth actually, exists solely in the mental image. My interpretation's a bit half-formed at the moment though, since we're missing some lyrics and I heard it on the webcast (and went back to listen a few times), and then live on Saturday the 16th. I'll get back to this in a couple of months, I assure you. --Lemita 22:28, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

I had thought that it was about a giant monster being created in some freak experiment and nearly killing the narrator and no one else surviving. Kind of. -Apollo (Phoebus!) 22:39, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Going into it that's what I thought to, (sort of) but then I thought...Nahh. that'd be to easy. --Propman 21:17, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I feel like what you're saying leaves way too many chunks unaccounted for. What evidence do you have besides the two things you mentioned? How exactly would talking about camp make the narrator have to make a point of being "not insane?" How do you explain the fossil tooth or the proof-swapping? --Self Called Nowhere 22:45, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I believe the camp (or whatever place this is) is now either defunct or completely gone whith no record of it having been there. The "right through those trees" line is him trying to explain the events that occured to people who have no intention of believing him. Or another possible interpretation this could have (since the subject has come up before) is it's about a dream somebody had that seemed so real that he thought it happened when it didn't, and the rest being the same. Him trying to convince people. That is unlikely though being as that the tooth is actually in place and he's much older. I also think the tooth is the later mentioned baby tooth that he lost at the location, not the tooth of a monster. On another note, I feel like this is getting a bit hostile and I don't like that. It's just a song. --Propman 05:55, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't see where wanting to have more evidence for what you're saying is "hostile," but ok then.--Self Called Nowhere 09:29, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
Well, techically an interpretation doesn't need evidence being that it's one person's impression. Just know that text has no emotion and can be misread. I'm sorry. --Propman 15:22, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Linnell[edit | edit source]

Is saying "Look at us, we're fuckin' amazing. We had all this potential, but we spent so much time in one spot! But now we're moving on! The past is done, we're hella awesome!" Canajoharie is FLOOD. Linnell wants to make another platinum-masterpiece like Flood. Trying to progress the band's sound. About their squabbles.


It works as a seriously great, sentimental and bitter look at evolution and the past and progress for humankind. That said, I don't think the instrumentation choices are coincidental. -magbatz



Time vortex[edit | edit source]

Seems to me that the narrator was walking through the village of Canajoharie (near where both Johns have summer homes, by the way) in New York when he stumbled upon a fossil tooth.   This seemingly insignificant event sparked an awareness/remembrance of the entire history of life in this place, and his connectedness to it.   First, he claims the tooth as his own, saying that he dropped the tooth himself (acknowledging his own connectedness to those who came before) and then he explicitly states "Which reminded me how we wound up where we are now" in reference to the entire history of life.   This awareness seems very specific, as he seems to know (or at least conjecture) the exact spot where people (or mammals or living things) entered this area-- or further still the spot where organisms first developed the ability to crawl on land, which he reckons happens to be in Canajoharie.   The later verse about the fin is a metaphor for how the remembrance/awareness episode began. The fin grabbed him into this vortex of time, but as he regained his senses he realized that it was "an inaccurately reconstructed fake" or that the awareness he had was merely conjecture on his part.   In a weird way, the lyrics of this song remind me of My Brother The Ape, referencing the interconnectedness of all organisms.


You Can't Go Home Again[edit | edit source]

I think the person discussing camp attended as a child is on the right track, but I took it more to to be about the mixed emotions that are stirred up when revisiting the place where you grew up. I saw the fossil tooth at the beginning as being the baby tooth mentioned near the end. But, metaphorically, it represents childhood. Though returning to the simpler times of childhood might be appealing in some ways, you wouldn't fit back in that place. You've evolved beyond your youth like a mudskipper dragging itself away. The "I'm not insane" bits, to me, described that feeling when you take someone from your current life to the sites of your childhood, and they aren't as impressed as you once were. Like taking your wife back to the town where you grew up (but where she's never been). The conflicting emotions about the past are so powerfully real in this song. The narrator is sentimental and wants to honor the place (with a historical plaque), but while he feels the pull of nostalgia, he realizes that things can never be the same again. The unevolved fin of the past is actually an inaccurately reconstructed fake and his old friends are gone.

I think you and time vortex are both spot on. Linnell's lyrics tend to be over-the-top in terms of layered meanings, and I think the song uses the surface meaning (the urge to return to the place where a mudskipper first crawled on land) to tell a more personal (and universal?) story of the urge to know and remember where we came from.

Time Travler[edit | edit source]

Well, what the first lines say to me is that the narrator finds a tooth in modern day Canajoharie that is his own. He dropped it in his time travels, when he witnessed the first evolution of the front fin and the Mudskipper's debut. The song hints that there was a rocket inccident where, possibly, the narrator first traveled in time as a young boy, explaining the fossilized baby tooth. He's saying all this with no thought of people believing him, but just for sentimental reasons.


Evolution[edit | edit source]

I think this is about an evolutionist trying to convince creationists that science is real.


Three threads[edit | edit source]

I think there are three separate but connected threads here. 1. Memories of the narrator's past/"you can't go home again". 2. An implied analogy between the narrator's personal history and the evolution of land-based vertebrate life on Earth. Canajoharie is, he says, where fish first crawled out onto the land. 3. Cheesy Fifties sci-fi/horror-movie imagery: the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the crashed rocket.

The threads are connected by individual elements of the song. The tooth is either a fossil tooth or his own baby tooth (threads 1 and 2); the fin pulling him back into the water is his nostalgia for his own past/humanity's forebears, or else it's a fake rubbery fish-man (1, 2, 3); the rocket is his own inability to completely separate from Canajoharie, but it's also a characteristic setup for "it came from outer space" horror scenarios (1, 3). --Matt McIrvin


Just a dig[edit | edit source]

I'm sure John & John visited Canajoharie and went for a simple hike between shows (check their tour schedule!)in the geographic wonder world that is New York State. Find a fossil and it inspires. Quite simple.

You're saying he is a paleontologist, that's what he is, that's what he is, that's what he is?

Mute or Moot?[edit | edit source]

Just curious - in the last part of the song, the lyrics include "...what's gone is mute...", but I'm wondering if it's supposed to be "...what's gone is moot...".

"Moot" fits with the rest of the lyrics in that section, which seem to be the narrator ending his story by basically saying "oh, well. It doesn't matter anyway. That time is passed." Then again, "mute" might fit, too. Perhaps the creature/proto-creature that's mentioned earlier in the song lacked the anatomy to vocalize, and obviously the creature doesn't exist anymore.

I'm just wondering what most other people think about this line. Moot vs. mute doesn't seem like a mistake that either of the John's would make by accident. Is it intentional, or am I over-thinking this?

In the live versions, I'd always thought it was sung more like "moot" than "mute", but I never really thought anything of it, I thought it was just a Linnellism on "mute". But now the album has come out, I think it's sung much more like "mute", and that is what is written in the lyrics sheet that came with the album too, so I'm more inclined to think it should be "mute" --༺𝄞𝄆Ⓠⓤⓔⓛ⎈Ⓓⓞⓜⓜⓐⓖⓔ𝄇༻ 16:14, 17 August 2011 (EDT)
I think it's the old double meaning, as in moot (what's gone doesn't matter) AND mute (what's gone no longer has a voice). -NorthsideJonny 08:24, 10 August 2013 (CDT)

OBVIOUS meaning is OBVIOUS[edit | edit source]

John Linnell witnessed an alien rocket ship crash. The aliens gave him his incredible songwriting talents as well as the knowledge that they had actually manipulated Earth creatures to evolve into mankind. It was this knowledge that he was given in return for his silence. Noone would beieve him anyway, but the aliens stressed that if he were to recount the story they would erase his memory and he too, would have no recollection of anything except that horrid "mink car" album. JL's hands are tied. He wants to tell his story but alas he cannot and his frustration at the entire situation is beautifully expressed in this song.

Well maybe not, but I like to have fun with it. JL once said something along the lines of lyrics being another instrument and that "logic shouldnt necessarily get in the way." I think thats part of what makes the band so charming.

CHeers!




Looking back on the band's history.[edit | edit source]

Flans has said many times that they tried to get a sound/feel similar to their old albums, this seems like it's them getting at that. The synth bass in the verses, the chopped up guitar in the choruses, and the accordion solo. These are all old tmbg techniques. Just my thoughts.


Lovecraft Parody[edit | edit source]

Many of Lovecraft's horror stories, such as the Lurking Fear, took place in the Catskill Mountains and other rural New England locales, and featured inhuman monsters that couldn't be fully described in words, but which often shared an evolutionary chain with humans (Lovecraft liked to use evolution as a plot device). Canajoharie appears to parody many of those elements, and Lovecraft was the first thing that came to mind when I heard it. --Tzion 00:51, 23 April 2012 (EDT)


A Eureka Moment of Questionable Quality[edit | edit source]

I think elements of "Time vortex" and "OBVIOUS meaning is OBVIOUS" are both strongly in the right direction... The narrator finds a fossilized tooth that causes him to have [what he thinks is] an epiphany about (1) his own evolutionary history ("this baby tooth no longer fits in my skull" is the narrator marveling at how different he is from his distant ancestor) and (2) life emerging from the ocean in the modern location of Canajoharie. He is desperately trying to convince the incredulous audience that it was aliens that accidentally did it by altering existing waterborne life. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 67.242.177.248 (talkcontribs) 01:45, 7 December 2012


Loss of a friend/loved one?[edit | edit source]

Bear with me here.

The song has always had a very melancholy tone to my mind. Not just one of reminiscence, but one of actual loss--specifically, the loss of a person rather than an idea or place.

We know it happened "very long ago," possibly even when the narrator was but a child. (This could imply that the loved one the narrator lost was a parent, but I've always viewed the narrator and the subject as being friends or lovers. That's just me, though.) Either way, it's clear that it had a profound impact on the narrator ("I'm not insane").

It also seems quite likely that the narrator witnessed the event ("If you can draw it in the air or write it down, then you weren't there), causing him to feel even more awful about it, like he could've somehow saved the victim from their fate. There also seems to be an element of survivor's guilt--the second verse implies that something happened to the narrator as well, but they made it out alive.

Several of the quotes, to me, seem largely metaphorical (although being TMBG, this isn't particularly surprising, is it?)--the "historical plaque" could very well be a roadside memorial or a gravestone, and the "rocket ship experiment" that "went awry" could be a horrific, deadly accident, claiming the life of the narrator's friend/lover/family member/whatever.

Note also that Linnell's tone throughout the song seems almost...pained, for lack of a better word--as if he were singing from the point of view of someone who had been bereaved and never really gotten over it. It's a brilliant song, IMO--I've always felt a lot of emotion listening to it. --Warhammer Of Zillyhoo 00:41, 5 March 2013 (EST)


I get a similar vibe from this one, except to me it sounds like the singer might have experienced some kind of mistreatment/abuse in his childhood ("What's gone is mute, someone changed the truth, they smoked the proof and there's nothing left"). I get the same impression from some of their other songs, e.g. Mr Me. The backdrop to their 2010 Kennedy Center performance could be seen as substantiating this.--Tyranny Sue (talk) 04:17, 9 December 2015 (EST)

Science isn't real[edit | edit source]

For a long time, I've actually taken pretty much the opposite tack on this song from that of "an evolutionist trying to convince creationists that science is real". In my view -- actually -- the narrator of "Canajoharie" is a pseudoscientist. ... He knows, maybe in the back of his mind, that the conclusions about ancient life that he's drawn from his wacky experience lie somewhere in the range of unsupported to plain irresponsible. He's decided, however, that the normal logical ways of knowing things aren't to be trusted: you can only see the real truth, that is, "if you squint your brain". If you "close your eyes, see what I see". In other words, that is: if you decide to ignore all the evidence, and just go with what *feels* right!

I think the same interpretation goes nicely with the lines "Someone changed the truth / They smoked the proof", too. Here, it seems to me, the narrator's thought process goes something like this: According to the scientific view of the world, truth is immutable -- but, we know better, don't we? In fact, the truth *changed*. Now it's not what it used to be -- although, I admit the proof may have gone up in smoke. But: that's actually okay, because the truth is of a nature that only the stoned can *really* comprehend! ... And that's the reason, too, why "if you can draw it in the air / or write it down, then you weren't there." You're thinking too verbally, too logically. This is the kind of thing that can *never* be pinned down in words!!

Sure, the narrator speaks in scientific terms, talking about evolution and fossils. But really, I'd say (and I think Linnell would say, too), nothing draws the pseudoscientists in more than science itself. The more their ideas can appear to have a scientific backing (or maybe, according to the pseudoscientist, the more they actually *do* have a scientific backing), the more valid everyone will think they are. But then, but then, you have to go ahead and couple that scientific sheen with a series of claims staking out just *exactly* why all the science that came before is wrong or insufficient, oh, no....

Now, I don't think Linnell is parodizing viciously here. But, I do think that in the wake of Here Comes Science, he wanted to at least toy around with other interpretations of the world besides "science is real". I think "Canajoharie" is the result of that exploration (even if it was originally written for The Else; I doubt that the Here Comes Science ideas were totally absent from TMBG's minds at that time). Linnell's pseudoscientist is a messed-up goofball, sure; but hey, he's still a creepily interesting messed-up goofball -- just like all the man's other characters, I mean!

And, you know: I really commend Linnell for putting that perspective into a song, too. Because, even if ultimately TMBG line up behind the Science Is Real wagon, I mean, I still love that Linnell's playing outside the range of what he personally seems to believe. (And, I really do think he's playing, I mean! I don't think he's making a mockery of his narrator, whatsoever -- at least, no more than he always does!) ... And, also, because I wouldn't say *all* their fans line up right alongside them, either....

- The Silver Chauffeur

Dewitt Clinton Reference a Clue?[edit | edit source]

I haven't thought too hard about this song yet, but does anyone else think that the instrumental is a subtle nod to Linnell's Dewitt Clinton, particularly since it seems like Dewitt Clinton had some history with the Erie Canal?

--Mishuga (talk) 13:43, 23 September 2016 (EDT)